Smart Cheshire

‘I’ve diversified hugely but how will I sustain this when 'normal' returns?’ - SMART Cheshire Innovation programme launches online workshops to support small business owners

Speaking to small business owners over the past few months, the team behind Manchester Metropolitan University’s SMART Cheshire Innovation programme noticed common themes kept cropping up.

“Some small businesses in the area were able to pivot at the start of lockdown but now they’re worried about managing these changes in the long-term. Others used the time to start ‘plotting and planning’ an inkling of an idea but weren’t sure of the next steps to develop those ideas,” says Rebecca Sewell, Project Co-Ordination Officer for the programme.

“We discovered that many of the small businesses we work with identify with one of these four comments: ‘Lockdown has given me lots of time to think and plan – I’m ready to progress my idea’; ‘I’ve added a little bit to my business, it doesn’t currently take any extra resource but it works and I'd like to develop it further’; ‘My business has been damaged, it’s clear that I’m going to have to change what I do/the way I do things to survive and flourish going forward’; ‘I’ve diversified hugely but how will I sustain this when 'normal' returns?’”

It is business owners with these thoughts in mind that the team are hoping to help as they launch their latest fully funded workshops online.

“The SMART Cheshire Innovation programme has always helped small businesses to develop new products or services, but we’re seeing many businesses who have had to innovate, have had to make changes because of COVID-19, and we’d really like to support these businesses on their new journeys,” explains Claire Pattison, Enterprise Fellow at Manchester Met’s Centre for Enterprise, who runs this short programme.

Through the practical workshops, small businesses test their initial ideas and move to prototype stage, gaining a set of tools they can use to test future ideas. As the team point out, that idea doesn’t have to be a never-seen-before invention, it’s simply something new to the small business to help it develop, say, creating a company website to take online orders.

The next SMART Cheshire Innovation Launchpad begins on 14 October, and small businesses can apply online here.

Abi Bentley-Cottam
Article by Abi Bentley-Cottam
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